While many people dream about starting their own business, far fewer make it happen. Nearly two-thirds of American adults have thought about starting their own business, only about a third of Americans have actually taken the plunge, according to a 2009 FindLaw.com survey. Why? My experience as a management consultant has shown that irrational fears are one of the main factors holding them back.
The irony is that those who take responsibility to overcome these mental hurdles and start a business, often don't look back. Fear is short-lived and often replaced by an experience of empowerment and a commitment to success.
Are you afraid of taking the entrepreneurial leap? Here are a few of the false assumptions that are fueled by fear, along with tips for moving beyond what may be holding you back.
"If I find the right business, I will succeed." This assumes the winning formula of a business resides outside the skills and experience of the entrepreneur and inside the business products and systems. This mindset can lead to endless nitpicking over what is wrong with every business opportunity that pops up. An experienced entrepreneur thinks, "The business doesn't make me successful. I make the business successful." This more powerful truth can empower an entrepreneur to acknowledge the potential pitfalls then figure out ways to make it work.
"Being self-employed is unpredictable and I want a comfortable and normal life." While almost everyone likes stability and security, entrepreneurs accept and plan for inconsistency in the short term in exchange for a life and career they choose in the long run. Someone with "an employee mindset" is like someone who sits comfortably in the stands watching the big game wondering what it would be like to play. The business owner takes the field and plays all out.
"I'm afraid of the unknown." People who are afraid of owning their own business are terrified by the ambiguity that comes with it. Entrepreneurs don't like ambiguity either, but accept it as something temporary and fully expect the business to produce a more predictable result in near term.
"A business failure will kill me." Entrepreneurs don't like failure, but they typically won't put themselves in situations they won't survive. A seasoned entrepreneur understands what the worst-case scenario is, and crafts a "survival strategy" in case it happens. While entrepreneurs don't expect to fail, they will survive if they do.
"It's not the right time to start a business." Some people act as if the universe is comprised of two time periods -- the right time to start a business and the time the would-be entrepreneur is currently living in. A true entrepreneur declares now to be the right time and finds ways to make it work.
Ask yourself what one action you should be taking to bring you closer to my goals. Then, regardless of how large or small that action is, take it. Spend a day writing your business plan. If you want to start a consulting business, take on just one client.
The best advice for would-be entrepreneurs may have come from St. Francis of Assisi: "Start by doing what's necessary. Then do what's possible. And suddenly you are doing the impossible."
Joe Mathews has 20 years' experience in franchising, including management roles with Subway, Blimpie, Motophoto, The Entrepreneur’s Source and other national chains. He is co-author of Street Smart Franchising with Don Debolt and Deb Percival, from Entrepreneur Press. He is based in Litchfield, Conn. Follow him on Twitter: @joematty.